There is an upwelling — a river of sadness upwelling in my abdomen. I feel the cold splash, the gulp for air, the slipping under the surface. Every cell is too heavy, drenched, drowning. My head is heavy, like I’m carrying a 20-pound sack of grain on my head. My mouth pulls down at the corners.
I’m thinking of my friend and her soft, blonde hair; her musical laughter. I’m thinking of her dead son. He was only 29. He had a mental illness. In the midst of a psychosis, he stepped in front of a train.
That happens on the Peninsula — suicide by train. It happened to my friend’s son on Wednesday. Someone Else called to tell me on Friday. She said police had gone by the house. I could see my friend and her husband answering the door together, the officers standing on the porch in their dark uniforms; hear the sound of their equipment jangling on their belts.
Afterwards, the neighbors had come with food and comfort. I was glad of that — the comfort. That wouldn’t have happened to us, if it had been our son.
When I get the call, I start crying. When I hang up, I don’t stop.
“What happened?” my husband asks from his workbench. Our little dining area has no table. Instead, it’s stuffed with tools, scraps of wood, things he’s making and fixing — a record player, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a tiny trolley on a balsa wood San Francisco street, complete with overhead electric wires. I love to see him at work there, bent over a project, humming.
He takes the news like a blow to the stomach: “Jesus Christ!”
I don’t go to him. I don’t embrace him or collapse into his chest. He puts his feelings in a tight box and buries it distant. I don’t pry open the box. I don’t force him to pry it. I consider him fragile. I try to protect him. I sandbag the levees; feel the water rise from abdomen to chest.
It isn’t until that night in bed, after he starts snoring, that I let the tears and snot stream out through my nostrils. Underneath the wool blanket, pressed skin to skin against his warm back, I shudder gently, gulp carefully for air.
We have a “child,” too, a young man who struggles, who gets taken to the hospital, who draws police to our door. The sadness I’m swimming in isn’t just for my friend and her family. There are currents beneath that. Rip tides. Whirlpools. Tsunamis. I’m on the shore, and in the water, and getting sucked under, getting pounded by big waves on the rough, sandy floor.
On Saturday I call my spiritual director. I call my sister. I call Someone Else. They soothe me. Sister Carmen says “God scooped him up, made him whole, brought him home.” I call my friend. She says she believes that. “Why not believe that? We don’t know.”
On Sunday, I drink too much at a party. Monday morning I’m swamped with anxiety, upset. If I am fording a river of sadness, then the liquor has poisoned the water, churned up the toxic mud on the bottom. Now the river is wider, the crossing more difficult. Now the water is choppy and filled with debris.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I still struggle against the current, still ride on a rickety raft. Then on the second Saturday, I watch a short feature on psychiatrist Carl Jung. A landing comes into view.
Jung agreed with my friend. This world-famous doctor, great thinker and contemporary of Freud, said it’s not possible to prove God exists, yet he chose to believe.
“The human intellect can never answer this question. Still less give any proof of god. Moreover, such proof is superfluous. For the idea of an all powerful divine being is present everywhere, unconsciously if not consciously because it is an archetype. I therefore consider it wiser to acknowledge the idea of god consciously,” he wrote. Over the door to his home and office in Zurich, Jung chiseled this inscription: “Whether called upon or not, God will be present.”
I think my friend’s son would have liked Jung, who worked in mental hospitals with people in psychosis. There were even six years when Jung had psychoses of his own, struggled with visions sprung from his unconscious, drawing them in The Red Book.
Later, Jung spent much time alone, at a retreat on a lake which he called The Tower. There, he nurtured his connection to nature. “At times, I feel as if I’m spread out over the landscape, and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the clouds, in the procession of the seasons,” he wrote.
And that becomes my rescue — the idea that we are more than individual lives. Those are the words I hear on the second Sunday when I finally scramble out of the river, park my raft on the shore, and walk on.
Within a few weeks of the launch of Dropbox’s new brand, Ebay brought out their own new look. It’s less severe than Dropbox’s drastic new aesthetic, but it evokes similar feelings. It’s less direct in it’s focus on artists and creative professionals, but it strikes the same chord. It has as much in common Dropbox’s refocused brand as it does with what Eliza Brooke of Racked describes “Startup minimalism”, which is detailed here:
sans-serif lettering, neatly presented in black, white, and ultra-flat colors. Cobalt, for example. Its goal is noise reduction, accomplished by banishing gradients, funky fonts, and drop shadows, and by relegating all-caps to little “BUY” buttons. The abundance of white space around words, photos, and playful doodles exudes a friendly calm. You’ll find the information you need in seconds, and what a pleasing few seconds they will be.
My favourite quote from her piece is the following:
…One of the remarkable features of startup minimalism is its flexibility. It can sell anything.
Which is certainly apt in Ebay’s case. There is a distinct timeliness to the look, and it has as much to do with the trends of ecommerce as it does to Ebay’s status within it’s market. Like Dropbox, Ebay was once heralded as being the future of technology. A pioneer of online shopping, they devoured PayPal to create what looked to be poised as a giant of digital commerce. But their ambitions now seem small, especially when compared to their closest and most aggressive competitor, Amazon. Now, 25 years after opening their doors, they appear quaint; The likeable, but forgettable cousin of Craigslist. As a result, their positioning has changed. If they can’t have everyone they can have you, who is not like everyone.
This is a trend you can see in technology going back at least 20 years. In 1997, at it’s rock bottom marketshare, Apple decides that it’s products aren’t for everyone, just “The ones who see things differently”, “The misfits, the rebels”. in 2017, in the same position regarding hardware, Microsoft targets “the Mac’s oldest stronghold: creatives” with the Surface line of devices. Ello, the small social network originally over-hyped as the next Facebook, found it’s true home with designers and artists, following like likes of Tumblr instead.
VSCO, the image-editing company, equally was reported on as the next Instagram and instead kept it’s focus on creative individuals. Virb, Vimeo, Myspace all have similar paths. They all at one point were billed as the next big thing, and upon reaching their zenith, had to change trajectory and find new meaning for their companies. In all of these cases, this meant focusing on a small but desirable, self-identifying target group: artists.
What’s interesting here is the aesthetic transformation, and the shared details in their execution. These companies all became more interested in editorial content, and adopted a visual language that looks visually distinct from their mainstream counterparts.
In 2017, this is what alternative looks like.
Flat colours, picked just outside of the range of primaries and secondaries give us muted golds, cobalts, lime greens, goldenrods, corals, aquamarines, eggplants. High contrast use of black & white is used wherever low-contrast colour-on-colour isn’t. Sans-serifs, the staple of post dotcom technology are used liberally, in bold geometries that give a non-committal-Scandinavian feel. They are constructivist in their structure, but not so much that it breaks with our understanding of modern technology or marketing. The typefaces are severe, but they have character, using letterforms that are deliberately stark, but have quirks that ensure you never confuse them for Gotham, Avenir or any other sensible sans serifs. These are typefaces that want you to feel like you are being challenged by their appearance, but are still, my any measure of readability or legibility, easy on the eyes.
The graphic systems are all equally rigid, relying on visible grids and sharp contrast in shape. Often creating a marriage between circles and squares, with rare exploration outside of those two perfected forms. There is an interplay between the hard-lined outlines that use think keylines and comfortable margin and the visual content, where images almost always run right up to the edge of one-another.
When photography is used it’s palely studio-set, with the flat colours used throughout the brand making up the backdrop for wide shots of humans in abstracted situations of normalcy. Echoing this benign austerity that makes up the colour palette and the typography. It’s harmonious and human, but graphic with sharp edges. On a tight-rope between being fun and being prickly, landing somewhere that can be described as sophisticated but quirky.
All of that said, I don’t have any negative feelings about the trend, nor the design work done by Form&, Collins or any of the other designers involved. In fact, I am typing this on a Surface Pro, and am an active and happy user of VSCO and Ello. These redesigns are sharp, professional, well-executed, and stand out (albeit in their respective markets rather than from each other). I think they are an excellent solution to a very real problem that a lot of businesses face. However when each brand solves the same problem in the same manner, a new problem arises: When these new identities are positioned on standing apart, what happens when they all look the same?
Sometime around mid-day, December 11, 2018, the Oval Office. Under national news coverage, Donald Trump decided the second year of his presidency wouldn’t be complete without another high-stakes temper-tantrum. It’s the same old baboon lurching at the edge of his seat: Same boxy ill-fitting suit, same obligatory flag pin and tangerine combover, same too-long blue tie dangling below his beltline, same pouty duckface pushing up against his rumpled jowls, with his arms crossed in front of his chest like an indignant sorority girl who waited 35 seconds too long to receive her nitro-brewed latte.
The president hosted a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and after minutes of finger-pointing and squabbling, it unraveled into another unscripted ape-rant. This time Trump declared he would be proud to engage in some grand national brinkmanship to fulfill his blood oath of securing funding for the long-awaited Mexican-stopping defense shield.
Chin-stroking pundits and their sorrowful Beltway counterparts were baffled and dismayed at Trump’s latest brain belch. Really though, when’s the last time a Democrat fought this hard for anything?
Say what you want about Ferret-Top and his cavalcade of glad-handers, but at least they genuinely understand their base. Their brand is an open con. They hoover Middle America votes by trotting out xenophobic Bible-thumpers who heap on silent-majority racial paranoia wedded to redundant flag-waving and family values, as they pretend to love Bud Light and shooting brown people while mostly just deregulating the economy in service of one-percenters.
Meanwhile, under the shepherding of cocktail vets like Pelosi, the Democrats have demonstrated the strategic acumen of Elmer Fudd. Their Potemkin progressive pitch revolves around social issues, cynical identity politics, and poo-pooing policies supported by most of its base for “pragmatic” reasons.
The American left is expected to extend courtesy, civility, nuance, and compassion to a political establishment that has demonstrated time and time again that they have zero interest in reciprocating any of those virtues. If the right-wing fever swamp genuinely cared about respectability, they’d stop shouting VENEZUELA and CULTURAL MARXISM like they possess the Pavlovian conditioning of a coke fiend riddled with Tourette’s.
Since Newt Gingrich poisoned Washington and plunged it into permanent dysfunction, his successors have embraced gutter tactics dirtier than a prostate exam at a Del Taco parking lot. In the last decade, Republicans have demonstrated their goodwill when they:
Propagated a birther conspiracy to delegitimize Obama’s presidency.
Nearly brought the U.S. to the brink of default.
Weaponized a government shutdown in hopes it would defund Obamacare.
Attempted to repeal said Obamacare over 70 times.
Rebranded themselves as the “Party of NO” by obstructing nearly all of Obama’s agenda.
Blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for almost an entire year.
Chiseled away at the Voting Rights Act, purged voter rolls, and implemented racial gerrymandering across various states (RE: Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia).
Tried to force-feed Americans a shoddy health care bill that was projected to destabilize an industry that accounts for one-sixth of the national GDP.
Bequeathed a government handout to the mega-rich in the form of a $1.5 trillion deficit-inducing tax cut after spending the Obama years fetishizing fiscal responsibility.
Undermined and interfered with the Muller investigation.
Neglected to provide any ethical oversight over Trump’s potential emolument clause violations or other shady misdeeds.
Accepted Trump’s pardoning of a demented desert fascist.
Confirmed highly probable sex criminal, a.k.a. Dry-Humpty Dumpty, to the Supreme Court after an embarrassing boof bonanza.
Pursued a Willie Horton-style midterm strategy (RE: John Faso, Brian Kemp, Ron DeSantis, Duncan Hunter, the weeks-long caravan hysteria).
Used post-election lame-duck sessions for power grabs in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
This Mr. Hyde iteration of the GOP is a collection of decaffeinated madmen and bloodthirsty shitposters who subsist on burning poor people as fossil fuel, led by an insane golf blob who probably uses a child’s femur as a toothpick.
The Corruption of the Republican Party The GOP is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start. www.theatlantic.com
But in response to the midterms, the high mullahs of conventional wisdom snobbishly spat the same ol’ campaign clichés into the void in between sips of unicorn tears or whatever they drink while they rain lukewarm takes. The big “liberal” media takeaway is the same post-mortem that’s dominated every post-election news cycle since 19-something-something.
Trump was decimated in the suburbs, where he lost the confidence of “moderates.” Especially women. So Democrats need to capture these districts by moving to the center and embracing a less-policy-specific, more personal-profile approach. “Candidate recruitment” is doublespeak for pushing sanitized ex-vets in hopes that right-leaning voters will project their retrograde views onto these walking blank canvases.
For all their fixation on the mythical moderate, the press only conjures up some generic description of the great American suburb. A creepy mixture of Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons, it’s a mindless purgatory where people drive boring cars, love football and the military, and dislike bold ideas. Apparently, their political beliefs approximate support for ICE tossing Mexican children into cages, but an allergic reaction to @realDonaldTrump’s VERY MEAN tweets. Implicitly, this voter is white.
The notion that Democrats need to look and act more like Republicans to appease these swing districts is a religious tenet in the Church of the Blue Establishment. The archetypal Democratic politician is a focus-group-tested, triangulating mannequin who is so nondescript, they couldn’t even leave an impression if they slept on a memory foam mattress. They would bring a calculator to a gun fight.
The modern Democratic Party is already hardwired to abide by ritualistic decency and procedural norms, even as Trump and his cronies blowtorch them with their grotesque and Machiavellian pursuit of power.
Bill Clinton is the sui generis of mealymouthed centrism. He emerged out of a primordial swap of polling data and aww-shucks pablum and perfectly executed the Democratic Leadership Council’s plan of courting the bomb-humping, deregulatory right. Since then, the blue team has embraced NAFTA, welfare reform, triangulation, repealing Glass-Steagall, the PATRIOT Act, and the Iraq War. Ideological advancement was the necessary electoral price to pay for soul-sucking party expansion. And from Dubya to the Tea Party to Trump, Republicans keep running their revanchism up a flagpole and voters keep on saluting.
But the Beltway thinkfluencers can’t seem to cobble together their C-minus brains to solve the jigsaw mystery of what most Democratic voters want: Sensible gun control, stronger unions, campaign finance reform, reduced defense spending, ending pointless wars, Wall Street crackdowns, environmental protections, Medicare-for-All, minimum wage hike, paid paternity leave, free public college, and a host of other obvious demands.
However, these aren’t mega-donor positions, which means the Democrats are built on a business model of disaster capitalism. Leaders like Schumer and Pelosi are content with piloting Malaysian Flight 370 as long as they maintain power and corporate funding. It’s a sad state of affairs when a shoe company with third-world labor abuses has caught on to changing cultural values before our ostensibly “liberal” party.
Republicans generally win because they super-serve their base. When they want an economically dubious tax cut, they get it. When they’re convinced every Taco Bell employee is secretly a member of MS-13, Mexicans are thrown into tent cities.
In contrast, the Democrats deliver breadcrumbs that’s some version of what their base wanted. It just happens to be 95 percent watered down by concessions to a ruthless corporate insurgency disguised as a rogue party. These boobs are too politically flaccid to deliver the goods because they’re all strategy and no heart. Their disconnect has been willed into perpetuity.
Their kind of think-tank strategery is what reduced Hillary Clinton to the Bill Buckner of presidential candidates. She lost to a crypto-fascist game-show host with near-record negatives in part because, on the campaign trail, she walked and talked like a robot that was trying to learn empathy by observing humans. The Democrats went on a six-year run of bleeding seats at every level of government under this ideology.
While not all progressives won during the midterms, notable candidates like Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar emerged victoriously. Most Democratic winners advocated for expanded Medicare and Social Security, better minimum wage protection, and more control of prescription drug pricing.
Democrats Who Voted to Deregulate Wall Street Got Wiped Out in a Setback for Bank Lobbyists The most high-profile bipartisan legislation of the Trump era turned out to be electoral poison.theintercept.com
At the beginning of 2017, eight Democrats in Congress had pledged to refuse corporate-PAC money, but come January, that number will be 50. The midterms sent a record 117 women to Congress, and it delivered a historic night for the LGBTQ and people of color. Ballot initiatives, including Medicaid expansion, anti-gerrymandering measures, and the restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people succeeded in red states.
Detractors highlight Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, and Beto O’Rourke as high-profile losses. But it’s clear that progressive energy enabled them to mount serious challenges to Republicans in traditionally red strongholds, driving turnout that helped Democrats claim scalps in down-ballot elections.
Young voters showed up to the polls at 31 percent — the highest midterm turnout in a quarter century — and posted a 188 percent surge in early voting compared to 2014. In the 2016 primaries, Bernie Sanders accumulated more youth votes than Trump and Clinton combined. Millennials present the largest, most diverse, and most socially and economically liberal generation in U.S. history, and are already the largest generation in the workforce.
The American electorate is primed for a leftward shift.
Why America's Version of Capitalism Is Incompatible With Democracy American democracy is unwell; on this much, President Trump's detractors can agree. nymag.com
Still, the Democratic Establishment has a band of loyalists who fashion themselves as the #Resistance, who are really just a group of norm-core goobers convinced that civility policing is way back to power. Their snark is like an Aaron Sorkin monologue that isn’t nearly as cool or original as they think it is. They’re stuck in a Daily Show mental loop built on this fantasy of fact-checking The Orange One to death.
Trump is a fount of dishonesty. Most of it so transcendently dumb, that it has morphed into a form of culture jamming, as if his grammatically abhorrent tweets were sandwiched between scare quotes and midnight bowel movements. The mad king has lied over 7,500 times in the past 700 days. He wields bull shit as a litmus test to detect which rats will scamper back onto the Titanic at all costs.
Trump embarked on a Sherman’s March of sociopathic nonsense that propelled him to the ranks of other Nietzschean supermen like Hitler and Jesus before barreling down the gates of the White House. This truthless used-car salesman doesn’t have much use for facts, or decorum, or empathy, or any other indicator commonly used to gauge if someone can barely slither over the lowest bar of basic human decency.
And when these concern trolls aren’t obsessing over Trump’s mannerisms, they keep blind faith in the Mueller investigation eventually vanquishing this administration, resulting in some climactic Götterdämmerung where Trump is frogmarched out of the White House in unanimous disgrace. The only problem is the Republicans are using Trump’s popularity with their base to railroad a plutocratic agenda through Congress. These six-faced wheeler-dealers will gladly follow him into the muck so long as it’s politically expedient.
For the first two years of the Trumpenreich, Democratic leaders struggled to mount an effective counteroffensive. They never asserted themselves with the same forcefulness and cunning that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan displayed during their rambunctious days under Obama. After November’s blue wave, freshly re-minted Speaker Pelosi predictably vowed to find “bipartisanship” and “common ground where we can.”
Democrats Have Their Package Of Reform Bills In Hand. Here's How It All Came Together. The sweeping proposal, crafted by a band of lawmakers ready for just this moment, targets voting rights, campaign finance, and ethics.www.huffingtonpost.com
At his cheeseburger-clogged heart, Trump is a Reddit troll. The only way to send him back to his gold-plated toilet is to throw his babbling non-sequiturs back in his face. E.g., as commentator Kyle Kulinski suggests, re-title Elizabeth Warren’s anti-corruption reforms as the Drain the Swap Act. If being anti-Trump is all it takes to win, why not make the Republicans say “NO” to Medicare-for-All, to paid leave, to policies that people want? Give the voters a preview of what a new, bold Democratic vision looks like.
It’s critical that the House Democrats set the tone for 2020 and to nominate the right presidential candidate. It would be terrible to relive another fatal electoral loop where a placid suit hits all the right progressive notes only to flake on the base once they win. If a do-nothing Democrat rides a sham pageant into office and presides over calamity, the prospects of building a lasting progressive coalition may be irreparably damaged.
Is America's future capitalist or socialist? Steve Pearlstein, author of Can American Capitalism Be Saved? and Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of the socialist journal Jacobin, debate.www.vox.com
America’s society-altering legislation — women’s suffrage, New Deal, Civil Rights, marriage equality, etc. — was borne out of sustained progressive activism pressuring the federal government to act on its behalf. This folksy view of compromise has and always will be a West Wing wet dream. If special interests are to be meaningfully challenged, if fundamental economic and democratic changes are to be made, then it will be the result of progressives out-messaging, out-mobilizing, and out-voting the Frankenstein mob of Koch disciples and Christian dingbats.
So this evangelical insistence on pushing centrism and compromise is a lame attempt at using horseshoe theory to pass off false equivalences as enlightenment. Centrism is what politics looks like with a lobotomy and no principles. Centrism is a sinister refashioning of half-measures and diminished expectations. Centrism presides over the funeral of baseline standards. Centrism concedes and never fights. Centrism feigns outrage over the Swampness Monster transforming the White House into an immolated sewage dump, but is too indecisive to find the fire extinguisher. Centrism is a garbage virtue that will destroy our entire democracy. Fuck centrism.
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Migration, the seasonal movement of a species from one place to another, is an important adaptation for many of Earth’s inhabitants. Plants and animals migrate for various reasons. Many plants move seasonally to different habitats that support their growth. Animals often migrate with the change in weather to more hospitable environments for food sources, breeding, and raising young. It is also important for animals to travel to other regions to find mates. The pairing of mates from different populations increases gene variability, a necessary factor in the long-term survival of a species.
All around the world, migratory animals face a growing array of threats, including habitat destruction, overexploitation, disease, and global climate change. Nonmigratory species also face such threats, but migratory animals seem especially vulnerable because of the long distances they travel. Their populations can be harmed not only by the loss of breeding habitat but also by changes in their wintering grounds and stopover sites. Many are forced to change their migratory patterns, and some are no longer able to migrate at all.
Monarch butterflies, for example, migrate up to nearly 3,000 miles (4800 km) each year. Native to North America, Monarch butterflies can’t survive within cold conditions so they travel to the southern part of California and Mexico during winter. Every year, a new generation makes the trek. Monarchs spend most of their lives migrating (2–3 months), but each generation often hibernates in the same trees as the last one. The disappearance of their usual trees disrupts their migration, along with many other human caused threats.
Migration more critical with climate change
Due to the planet’s ever-changing climate, a larger percentage of the world’s species are migrating to find livable habitats, and at faster rates than before. Plants and animals are forced to migrate because of increasing temperatures and other climate changes such as sunlight and precipitation.
A tally of more than 4,000 species from around the world shows that roughly half are on the move. The ones on land are moving an average of more than 10 miles per decade, while marine species are moving four times faster. Some individual species are moving far more quickly. Atlantic cod and Europe’s purple emperor butterfly, according to Camille Parmesan, a scientist at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, moved more than 125 miles in a single decade.
The altered migration of a given species, either by distance traveled or by length of time it occupies a region, negatively impacts all life forms higher on the food chain, which rely on synchronic timing with that species for survival. Proof of this lies in the increased mortality rate of the Caribou in Greenland. The plants they rely on for sustenance are now at their peak at an earlier time of year. Many of the plants have already died before the caribou arrive at their breeding grounds in the summer, and are therefore unavailable to provide them with food.
Take another example of climate change’s impact on fellow species. Shrubs in the 19th century stood just over three feet. As temperatures warmed with fossil fuel emissions, and growing seasons lengthened, the shrubs multiplied and prospered. Today many stand over six feet.
Bigger shrubs drew moose, which rarely crossed the Brooks Range before the 20th century, followed by snowshoe hares. Both have become part of the subsistence diet for indigenous hunters in northern Alaska, as melting sea ice makes traditional foods like seals harder to chase. Altering migration patterns such as these make the need for wildlife corridors all the more pressing.
How land development disrupts migration
In East Africa, 1.4 million blue wildebeests start their 1,500-mile clockwise migration in January, congregating on the Serengeti’s southern plains and traveling through the national parks of Kenya and Tanzania. Zebras and gazelles join the wildebeests’ quest for the rainy season that leads to more plentiful food reserves.
Apart from crocodile-infested rivers, hungry lions, and human hunters, the world’s largest mammal migration could find its way blocked by the new threat of roads. A planned Serengeti highway would connect human populations west of Lake Victoria with populations east of the national parks, but it could also disrupt the animals’ travel corridors. Fences to keep the animals off the highway could stop them from reaching vital food and water sources.
The roads and buildings that block migration passages threaten plants and animals who are unable to cross. Fortunately, there are many groups and organizations that are fighting for the rights of these species by advocating for the protection of wildlife corridors.
Why are Wildlife Corridors important?
Saving the great migrations will be an important conservation challenge of the 21st century. One solution to this problem is wildlife corridors.
Wildlife corridors are legally sanctioned passageways that facilitate the migration of plants and animals. With the ever-growing development of highways, buildings, and other human-made structures, they make it possible for species to travel between habitats without being blocked by traffic and other obstacles.
Corridors may also help facilitate the re-establishment of populations that have been reduced or eliminated due to random events (such as fires or disease). This could also balance some of the worst effects of habitat fragmentation, where urbanization divides habitat areas and deprives animals of both their natural habitat and the ability to move between regions to survive.
Wildlife corridors are vital for the survival of a multitude of migratory species.
Some wildlife corridor victories
In a recent win, a proposal was passed to combat the growing rate of mountain lion fatalities due to highway traffic in and around Ventura, California. The Ventura County Planning Commission voted on January 31st, 2019 to establish and preserve wildlife corridors to protect mountain lions and other migratory species. In addition to building wildlife crossing structures and buffers around lakes and rivers, the plan will also limit outdoor lighting and fences. The “Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridors” proposal will be reviewed in March and implemented if the Ventura County Board of Supervisors votes yes.
As an innovative interpretation of wildlife corridors, wildlife bridges were built in Banff National Park in 1997 across the Trans Canada Highway to reduce car-wildlife collisions. Since then, the mortality rates of large carnivores are 50 to 100 per cent lower along the overpass and underpass sections of the highway. In those same areas, there is currently a nearly 0 per cent rate of vehicle-related elk deaths, compared to 100 per year in the mid-1990s. Tony Clevenger’s research concluded that in Banff, 11 species of large mammals have used the structures over 200,000 times, including the hoary marmot, wolverines, lynx, garter snakes, boreal toads, beavers, and red fox.
In June 2018, Mass Audubon sanctioned 110 acres of land in Plainfield, MA. This wildlife corridor is connected to the West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, which spans 10,000 acres. It is a key addition to a network of protected land, and serves as an important bridge for many migrating large mammals.
Many environmental organizations including WWF Nepal, along with donor agencies and local citizens, collaborated with the Government of Nepal to establish The Terai Arc Landscape in 2001. It covers 14 different protected areas in India and Nepal. The grasslands, forests and river valleys provide key habitats for many species including rare Indian rhinos, Asian elephants and Bengal tigers. The Terai stretches from the Bagmati River in Nepal to India’s Yamuna River.
A 28-kilometer wildlife corridor with an underpass was built in the mid-2000’s in Mt. Kenya beneath the major A2 Nanyuki Highway. This underpass provides critical connectivity between Mt. Kenya, a World Heritage Site, and Borana, Kisima, Ngare Dare and the northern Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Since then, numerous elephants have safely crossed under the major road without endangering themselves or motorists, and without damaging crops.
Current challenge: The Mexico/U.S. border wall
The Mexico/U.S. border includes hundreds of miles of public lands and six national parks. This land and its inhabitants will all be put in jeopardy with the Trump administration’s proposed building of a Mexico/U.S. wall along the 2,000 mile border. Coyotes, mountain lions, wolves and other inhabitants of the Chihuahuan desert will be cut off from their natural migration patterns. Many of the species that will be affected are endangered.
Several governmental and non-governmental groups are conducting studies to assess the full impacts the wall would have around the Rio Grande river in Texas, where construction is expected to take place. Several environmental organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Legal Defense Fund have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration for waiving multiple environmental regulations in the interest of the wall.
How can Earth Law help?
The legal establishment and protection of wildlife corridors embody the ideals of Earth Law, or Rights of Nature, which focuses on a holistic, eco-centric view of the world. Earth Law recognizes that humans can only be healthy if Nature is healthy. With bodies like the United Nation’s Harmony with Nature initiative, the International Union for Conservation of Nature all working towards evolving laws to strengthen the protection of nature — the global movement is growing.
Nations like Ecuador and Bolivia have amended their constitutions to recognize Right of Nature. Earth Law Center is working with local partners to submit national constitutional amendments in Mexico and El Salvador as well as working for rights of rivers and oceans.
Earth Law Center is building an international movement from the ground up, one that gives better grounding to the idea that humans have a responsibility for how we impact the world around us. The belief that nature — the species and ecosystems that comprise our world — has inherent rights has proven to be a galvanizing idea, and we work with local communities to help them organize around the rights of nature to protect their environment from the threats that they see.
The heart of the ELC approach is to seek legal personhood for ecosystems and species, a designation similar to that given to corporations in U.S. law, and one that if done well will imply both rights for the entities so designated and responsibilities on the part of human beings and societies to respect those rights.
Africa’s untapped potential as an economic powerhouse is attracting increasing interest. But before they can realize this potential, companies need to build supply chains capable of supporting growth in African markets. It’s a formidable challenge, but much of the required expertise already exists if companies know where to look.
Following tepid performances in 2016 and 2017, many African economies are rebounding. The African Development Bank forecasts growth rates of 4.0 and 4.1% in 2019 and 2020 respectively across the continent. This year, 40% of African countries are projected to achieve growth of at least 5%.
In addition to the improved economic outlook, an increasingly uncertain global trade environment is highlighting the continent’s potential. Upheavals such as the trade war between the US and China are spurring companies to reconfigure their global supply chains as they look for alternative sources of growth.
As companies develop strategies for expanding in African markets, they need to be aware of the challenges that shape the supply chains that are at the core of their strategies. Here are four examples of these challenges.
Extreme diversity. Africa comprises numerous countries and cultures that intersect to define distinct markets, points out Dr. Jarrod Goentzel, Director, MIT Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab. Companies that have targeted Africa as a growth opportunity need to keep in mind that conditions and practices vary dramatically from one part of the region to another.
Consider, for example, the market for truck transportation in Nigeria, says Goentzel. A common sight on Nigerian highways is lines of trucks parked on the hard shoulder, and drivers standing by their vehicles. An uninformed observer might assume that the truck drivers are waiting to enter the country’s congested ports. However, these queues of trucks form even when ports are working and accepting vehicular traffic. They actually function as informal markets, where buyers go to hire drivers to haul loads.
Another variable is the extent of physical and information infrastructure in African countries. This goes beyond the common focus of building roads. For instance, in many communities there is no formal system of postal codes, so finding specific addresses can be problematical.
The march of urbanization. Many Africans are migrating to urban centers, creating new challenges for the companies that serve these communities. For example, in Nigeria, Africa’s largest country by population, the number of people concentrated in urban centers is expected to jump by nine percentage points between 2017 and 2030, reports consulting firm Euromonitor.
A striking feature of this shift is the rise of megacities; cities with at least 10 million inhabitants. According to Euromonitor, African megacities will dominate population growth over the next decade or so. The continent will account for the largest absolute rise in megacities over 2017 to 2030, as Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Luanda, Angola join Nigeria’s Lagos and Cairo, Egypt, in the world’s league of megacities. Cairo is projected to be Africa’s largest megacity in 2030, with 29.8 million people.
Infrastructure issues. A lack of infrastructure distinguishes Africa from other regions such as Asia. The African Development Bank estimates the investment shortfall in infrastructure to be $68 billion to $108 billion annually. The Bank has launched the Africa Investment Forum, which it claims will be Africa’s largest-ever investment platform. Funds from the initiative will be used to develop the region’s urban infrastructure.
Adapting products for African consumers. Companies need to create products and services that meet the specific needs of consumers in Africa. For example, the lack of cold chain infrastructure in many countries favors food products that require minimal refrigeration.
Leading research organizations such as the MIT Megacity Logistics Lab are helping companies to develop supply chain solutions that enable businesses to compete effectively in Africa. For instance, the Lab designs last-mile supply chains for highly congested, densely populated megacities using data-driven, interactive optimization and simulation models.
Another approach is to partner with non-profit organizations, or NGOs, that have an established track record of operating successfully in Africa, especially ones that experiment with new approaches, says Goentzel.
“These organizations may have deep knowledge about moving goods in Africa. By partnering with them, companies can tap into this knowledge base and accelerate their move into the market,” he says.
For example, the MIT Humanitarian Lab worked with USAID to study how novel packaging technologies can reduce food wastage. The study leveraged experimental design to maximize learning from a pilot that deployed different packaging technologies across shipments bound for Africa. Results showed that there is no silver bullet since the combination of climate conditions including temperature and humidity and port equipment capabilities, change the cost-effectiveness equation. Partnering with a research organization helped USAID to rapidly and rigorously gain market insights.
Established NGOs are extremely knowledgeable about the different stakeholders in Africa, and how relationships drive or impede the efficiency of supply chains. They also have a sense of how technology can be applied in Africa to improve supply chain performance. For example, the World Food Program is engaged on a project in Ethiopia to use blockchain technology to streamline the sourcing of truck capacity for transporting aid cargoes.
“Traditionally, companies have not done much to establish partnerships with these incumbent organizations, and miss out on unique opportunities to learn,” says Goentzel.
For more information on the work of the MIT Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab please contact Jarrod Goentzel at email@example.com
For more information on the MIT Megacity Logistics Lab please contact the Lab’s Director Dr. Matthias Winkenbach at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I have a client who is asking about services. Do you think the brochure my last translator made is professional enough to share?”
My client is a US academic consulting company extending its market in China, and I’m a designer from China. Since the original materials are all in English, and some (in fact, lots of) their clients only read in Chinese, they need to translate the original materials. In the past, the translator took care of creating simple flyers and banners as well, so my client had this question today after she’s changed a translator.
I took a quick look at the brochure my client sent me — a flyer illustrating different service packages, and discovered a couple of issues to be fixed in the translation. My strategy for my client’s translated materials is to keep accurate, flowing naturally and elegant (“信达雅”, a standard in English-Chinese translation) to build a consistent brand image, because our goal of branding design is to let people know my client is professional and trustworthy.
Now both my client and I had no access to the original design document of that brochure, and the deliverable’s format is a JPEG, so the only way to fix the translation issues is to create a new one. Since my client’s client was asking about it, they obviously are waiting for this. So if I do, I must do it real quick. And so I said to my client:
“If you have 1 hour before sending it, I’ll make a new one for you.”
My client was very happy about it, so I started.
In my initial plan, I thought of a design thinking process for my client’s overall branding, which is to define my goals, empathize with target audience, ideate, prototype, test and finalize. And creating brochures is at a relatively late stage. But now I have only 1 hour, I must move really fast. And I want to ensure a high quality of my work, as I always do; so today, I encouraged myself to be creative about my process: make fast design decisions while still being user-centered.
My goal for this super agile design project, is to create a professional brochure in 1 hour, while fixing the translation errors and convey the brand message.
Obviously… no time for target audience interviews or even surveys. My only question was asking my client:
“Is the client a parent or a student?”
My client has two types of clients: 1) students, the high school or college students who are applying to undergraduate or graduate programs in the US; 2) the applicants’ parents.
The two groups of people have different visual preferences. The students, 15–21 years old, prefer brigher color and more dynamic patterns; while the parents, 38–50 year old, prefer lower saturation and more calmness in the visual to have trust in the brand.
Since settling a visual design scheme is a few days away in my initial plan, today I’m free to use any visual style as long as my client doesn’t hate it. And I know my client loves bluish green, and purple-orange pairs. Then I want to make sure the visual style works for the target audience.
My client told me it’s a parent. And so I moved to my next step: choosing a template.
Ideally, I’d create paper sketches for my design, vote for the best ones, digitalize them, and assist my client to choose the most suitable one. But today I have only 1 hour, and I want to build upon tools that already exist. So I decided to use a template on 58.pic, where I’ve subscribed a premium membership — normally, I would not use a template, because I want to ensure individually tailored design for my clients.
My ideation now became choosing the right template. I had my design goal in mind, and the user in mind — a parent who cares about their children’s academic future, wants to know the details of the services, and we want to have their trust.
I browsed through my search results of “flyer” in “Adobe Illustrator” format, and hit “Command” key plus my mouse’s left key to open templates in new browser tabs. These are my initial “drafts” of my design today (technically, not drafts I created, but their role equals what I do in a normal design thinking process, and I call them so today).
When I have 8 browser tabs opened, I decided to stop browsing. 8 is already more than 5, and by having 5, I’m more than 80% close to my goal — a lesson I learned from usability testing experience. Now I’ll do voting on my drafts, in the form of downvoting — closing the browser tabs when I find I love the template less than others.
Finally, I had only one browser tab open, and I downloaded the template. That’s where I started to iterate my prototype.
While downloading the template, I’ve had my content strategy ready — by translating the original English copy into Chinese in a Word document.
Because I only need the text, I don’t have to worry about the format in this Word document, so I went with the default typeface and font size.
Although in a crazily short time, I still managed to do some UX design to the content. I noticed that in my client’s original material, there are lots of “yes”s and “no”s in the spreadsheet, which can definitely be made more glanceable — by replacing them with check marks (equals “yes”) and crosses (meaning “no” in Chinese). I did the replacement while translating.
Now my copy was ready, I started to put them into the template I chose, and here on Adobe Illustrator, I needed to make a decision about the typeface. I wanted to ensure beautiful Chinese characters, and I wanted low cost for my client, so I went for the open source font Source Han Sans.
The main content of the flyer is a price table, so a default table style came to my mind almost immediately: a colored background for table header, and a slightly colored background for every other row, a table style we always see in Microsoft Word.
Now I’m in a design sprint, and I wanted to create something fast, so I decided to use this type of table style, which didn’t require me much extra effort.
Next, I started to put the copy into my Illustrator file. When I came to the crosses and check marks, I asked myself: is there a fast way to make them more visually appealing?
Yes, there is. I opened up Flaticon, which I also subscribed a membership, and dragged to Illustrator the SVG files of my favorite choices of search results on “cross” and “tick”. Normally, I’d scroll down to browse more icon styles; but today I’m in a sprint, I just went for the above-the-folder.
I put things together in the file, totally trusting my eyes to adjust the distance of elements — normally, I’d use a grid system, and sometimes create a rectangle to move around as a ruler. But today, I chose not to pursue 99% perfect (100% perfect is impossible), because I know from 95% to 99% perfect takes exponentially more times of effort. Today I just went for 95% perfect.
Here’s what my final Illustrator file is like:
57 minutes passed now. I exported my design as a small PNG file and sent it to my client on WeChat. When I finally export it as a deliverable, I’ll choose a higher definition. But now my client doesn’t read Chinese, and the focus I’m making sure with her is the visual design, I made the file smaller so she receives it faster.
“Do you like it?”
I asked. This is my usability test. If my client liked it, my work is almost finished. If not, I’ll ask why and then adjust my design.
My client likes it. Now I completed my prototyping, and went on to deliver.
The target audience is a parent in China. According to my observation, lots of people in China between 38–50 don’t have a PDF reader on their computer (if they use a Windows computer, which is again most people in this age range do). So I needed to export an image format in case the parent couldn’t open PDF. Yet I still exported a PDF as well, because the file size is smaller, so it’s easier to distribute — in case the parent could open a PDF.
Though I already exported to the smallest file size possible while ensuring high definition, I still compressed my files through ILovePDF and TinyPNG to make them even smaller. The smaller, the easier it is for my client’s clients.
My client was very happy and used the new flyer right away. I’m also happy because I completed one more challenging task.
In Creative Confidence, a book I really love, written by Tom Kelly and David Kelly, they said:
Constraints can spur creativity and incite action, as long as you have the confidence to embrace them.
In my design sprint today, I made a lot of quick design decisions, and I moved faster than ever on my design project. It’s really not doing it in spite of time constraint — it’s because of the constraint. Because I had limited time, I forced myself to move fast, and opted for the default for a couple of things. It worked because oftentimes, the default is what our audience is comfortable with, and conveys messages efficiently. Also, the time constraint stops my perfectionism from slowing me down.
I have a scorching case of writer’s block. Don’t worry, I don’t think it is contagious.
I have been afflicted with this condition for longer than I’d like to admit. *whispers*, “y-e-a-r-s.”
Alas, there is no strange smelly new-age salve I can purchase at Whole Paycheck to soothe my ailment. I could turn to booze and pills, but come on, how trite is that? I’m too much of a control freak to go down that rabbit hole.
It wasn’t until I came across some old notes on book ideas when it struck me just how long it had been since I really wrote for me, for pleasure. For years, it was something I prided myself on and did nearly every day. I was good at it until, slowly but surely, my inspiration withered and my passion waned. This happened gradual enough that I didn’t realize what had happened until it was at a crippling level of nada. My pen had run dry.
I neglected my talents further by taking it for granted, assuming I could just pick it back up later without consequences. How to get back on track?
Thankfully, Wikipedia has a page outlining what it [writer’s block] is, what the cause might be, and suggests ways I can remedy this persistent problem pestering my long-lost propensity for prose. I’m sure, like anything on the internet, it’s an accurate source.
I already have a WebMD degree and use it each time I question the severity and wetness of a cough. I often ponder, “Is it a cancer-y cough or just something one of the kids brought home from school (for the 6th time this year)?” They [my Piglets] are a couple of carrier monkeys after all.
But I digress … writer’s block. Per the aforementioned online authority, I am showing all of the traditional symptoms: an inability to be creative, long, lonely hours lamenting at my keyboard, abashed by the white glow emanating off my blank Microsoft Word screen, and spending way too much time in denial as I binge Netflix and argue about glaring plot holes.
I considered adopting a polydactyl cat. But I don’t want to go down a boozing, womanizing (err whatever the man version of that is) path in order to tap into my writing superpower.
I’m a prolific reader; reading more now than when I was younger. My to-read list could easily be featured on ‘Hoarders’, so I switched to Kindle content. And, like any good pretentious belletristic purist, I regularly annoy my movie-watching loved ones with phrases like, “The book was so much better.”
I do freelance work, but it is typically research-heavy and not something I would deem as creative. Writing about “payer-provider convergence” doesn’t exactly feed my soul, but it does work the same otherwise atrophied muscle.
But enough is enough. I need to find my appetite for writing again, for me, for pleasure. I know, it sounds very eat, pray, love when I say it out loud.
I’ve rationalized stress is likely the biggest culprit. Without going into too much detail here, the last year has been the most stressful to date. I lost the most, gained the most, and managed to come out the other side happier and healthier for it. It was an emotionally awful ordeal, but worth it in the end. The only way out is through, right? Finally cutting the dysfunctional cycle on 20+ years of “abuse” at the hands of mentally ill or unstable relatives has left me, well, passionless.
A family should unconditionally care and build a person up, not try to tear them down. I’d write more about it, but I don’t need to viscerally relive the frustrations, double-standards, gaslighting, smear campaigns, lies and threats I suffered through. Narcissists with their entitled, selfish mindsets and games, are incapable of feeling remorse and will outright deny or lie their way out of any wrongdoing.
Best to heal, grow and move on, right? Yeah, it’s a hint darker than I thought I would go with this post, but it is what it is. And honestly, I’d rather write about something clever or more interesting.
So, in an effort to force myself to write more, I’ve decided I may just blog here from time to time. I’ve been accepted into a couple of writing groups on Medium and will take a stab at weekly writing challenges.
I will eventually tire of feeling sorry for myself after I lick my writer’s block wounds for a while and hopefully rediscover my inspiration. If anyone has any good suggestions on how to do that [sparking my writing inspiration], I’m all ears.
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On February we began talking about uncertainty, as a constant in life. And how making decisions and generating alternatives strengthens our aptness towards life.
We talk about there being no good or bad decisions, only decisions. And how the best thing we can do with them, is turning them into something good, even if that means changing the choices that didn’t turn out as we expected.
In our last reflexion, we talked about how we make choices and the two systems in our brain. The one placed in our reptilian brain and chooses upon survival (determining what’s safe and what’s risky), whom Maja Storch calls “worm.” And the one that takes care of our social survival, who we call “judge” based on his orientation to make choices between right and wrong.
We also talked about how to make “something good about our choices” both parties must agree, otherwise, sooner or later one will claim the other.
And that’s what we will be talking about today, how to make these two processes in our brain to agree.
The Imprisonment of “the Worm”
One of the forms, sadly the most common, is when “the judge” controls the worm. So it is imprisoned and won’t talk. Its needs have no value when making a decision.
When we decide in this way, we live for the “outside.” It is to say, we live according to what we’ve learned is right or wrong.
They usually go over their own needs and desires. They can live like this for a long long time and will most likely, according to some researches, show stress, unsatisfaction, depression, and disconnection with life symptoms.
The best way to face this scenario is making our “judge” into savant and friends with the “worm.”
The “judge” evaluates, the savant explores; “the judge” judges, the savant analyses, “the judge” states, the savant invites to reflexion.
On the other hand, “judge” or savant, the more references they have, the more alternatives they will be able to find. It is to say, the more open he is, and the less he thinks there’s only one way to live, the wiser he’ll be, and the less judge he’ll be. Mark Twain used to say, “travel is the cure against prejudice, intolerance, and mind narrowness.” The reason is quite simple, our construction reference frame of social reality widens.
The Worm’s Debauchery?
People are very afraid that “the worm” will become libertine if we leave it free if it takes control.
The funny thing is, I have noticed that this is unlikely. Let’s remember that “the worm” chooses in order to take care of us and our survival.
What might happen is that if it was imprisoned for a long time, once it’s out it will “jump of happiness”, and for people who are very self-controlled this could be scary.
The only thing “the worm” wants is to live in peace. So it will react to those things that cause it pain, fear, risk and will react to things that cause it happiness, peace, safety.
Listening to “the worm” makes us wise. Listening to “the worm” allows us to connect with our deepest needs, with what we need to feel safe in the world.
And when we feel safe in the world our savant has a greater chance to analyze, make reflexion, and consider alternatives in a wider and calmer way.
If we run over our “worm” with our “judge,” sooner or later we’ll feel uncomfortable with ourselves. If we run over our “judge” with our “worm,” we might end up placing ourselves at risk.
So the important thing is not to run over any of the needs, we must listen to them, give them the same weight and value, consider both when making a choice that will allow us to be safe, to feel comfortable and do what’s adequate for the specific context where we are placed.
A good place to start reconciling is asking ourselves “What result would make me feel more satisfied?” in this way, we take our mind to imagine the future and think what choice in the present would draw me to this satisfactory future. We evaluate choices as “good” or “bad” according to the result or consequences coming from them, whether we feel comfortable or uncomfortable in the social frame or inner enjoyment.
Learning to do so is a test and error exercise, Michael used to say, is a process of discovery and accompaniment for ourselves. Treat ourselves kindly during the learning process is the key and exploring and asking ourselves what would make us feel satisfied, is the guide to follow.